The chaos of the Trump administration is continuing to churn this week, with an abruptly revealed departure of a top immigration enforcement official at the Department of Homeland Security. Matthew Albence has been serving as acting Director of Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) since June 2019, when then-head Mark Morgan was shifted over to the leadership of Customs and Border Protection (CBP), but now, Albence will reportedly be leaving his post at ICE by Labor Day. ICE agents have been among the highly controversial federal agents who have recently been dispatched across the country to confront peaceful protesters.
On Friday, acting Secretary of Homeland Security Chad Wolf confirmed Albence’s upcoming departure and issued a statement thanking him for his service. Wolf said:
‘As the senior law enforcement official for U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement, he successfully led ICE to record-breaking criminal arrests and seizures in furtherance of ICE’s critical national security and public safety missions, and helped restore integrity to this country’s immigration system. He has been a tireless advocate for the more than 21,000 dedicated professionals of ICE and a critical member of the DHS leadership team.’
In what universe has Albence helped restore anything like “integrity” to federal immigration enforcement? Although at the time, he was not the head of ICE, he’s the guy who, when confronted by Congress about the conditions in which detained immigrant children have been held, compared the detention facilities to “summer camp.” That is a grotesque misrepresentation of the actual situation, which Albence used to try and justify the Trump administration’s past policy of punitively separating immigrant children from their parents.
Albence earned sharp condemnation at the time. Lawyer Lee Gelernt, who works as the deputy director of the American Civil Liberties Union’s Immigrants’ Rights Project, told CNN at the time:
‘It doesn’t matter what the facilities look like. The trauma is from separating the child from the parent. Every night the child is going to sleep thinking, ‘Am I ever going to see my parents again?’ It doesn’t matter whether they are in palaces. They certainly are not palaces. That’s a shocking statement.’
Throughout the Trump administration, the president and his political allies — including Albence — have focused on harshness towards immigrants at just about every turn imaginable. Besides the obvious elements along these lines, like the president’s endless clamoring for a southern border wall, his administration has also taken steps like attempting to curtail access to asylum for groups like anyone who passes through a third country before reaching the southern U.S. border through Mexico and does not apply for asylum in that country. That rule essentially excluded the entirety of Central America from consideration for asylum well before Coronavirus-related travel restrictions were in place.
Amidst the pandemic, the Trump administration proved yet again just how far that they’re willing to go to make their animosity towards immigrants clear. At one point, they announced plans to implement a rule demanding that most international students would have to leave the country if their school switched to all-online classes for the fall semester. After backlash, including lawsuits from top schools, the Trump administration reversed their plans.